WASHINGTON — The George Santos saga could soon come to an end on Capitol Hill, though his legal troubles will continue well into 2024.
As soon as this week, the House could vote to expel the indicted New York Republican congressman after a blistering Ethics Committee report concluded he had used his campaign funds to pay for personal expenses including rent, trips, luxury items, cosmetic treatments like Botox and a subscription to the adult-content site OnlyFans.
The report also found that Santos deceived his donors and knowingly filed false campaign finance statements. (Santos blasted the report as “biased” and has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges against him).
Ethics Chairman Michael Guest, R-Miss., had filed a resolution before the Thanksgiving break to expel Santos from Congress. When the House returns on Tuesday, Guest could move to force a vote on his resolution later in the week.
Earlier this month, Santos easily survived an effort by his fellow New York Republicans to oust him from office. But now, following the Nov. 16 release of the scathing ethics report, many of those who voted no and argued that Santos deserved due process have flipped and say they will now vote to expel him.
Santos himself acknowledged that his days in Congress are numbered, even though it takes two-thirds of the full House to expel a member. In a lengthy, expletive-laden online rant on Friday, the first-term lawmaker predicted he would become just the sixth person in history to be expelled from the House of Representatives.
“I know I’m going to get expelled when this expulsion resolution goes to the floor,” Santos said during a three-hour appearance on X Spaces. “I’ve done the math over and over, and it doesn’t look really good.”
If Santos is successfully expelled, it would trigger a special election for his competitive, Long Island-based seat — one of the 18 House districts that Joe Biden carried in 2020 that are now represented by Republicans. New York law states that Gov. Kathy Hochul must issue a proclamation within 10 days of the vacancy to declare a special election and that the election must take place between 70 and 80 days after Hochul’s action.
It’s a pick-up opportunity for Democrats. While Santos won the seat last year by nearly 8 percentage points, the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter rates the race as “Lean Democrat.”
More immediately, Santos’ expected expulsion would cut Republicans’ razor-thin advantage over the Democrats to 220-213, handing new Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., even less wiggle room to pass legislation when it comes to things like GOP absences or defections. On top of that, there has been persistent chatter that former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., could resign in the middle of the term, though he has batted down those rumors.
During Santos’ short time in Washington, drama has seemingly followed him everywhere. It will be no different this week. On Tuesday morning, members of the progressive group MoveOn Political Action will greet returning lawmakers on Capitol Hill with a 15-foot inflatable depiction of Santos and demand that he resign.
A spokesman for Guest did not respond to questions about the timing of a possible vote. Speaking to reporters in Sarasota, Florida, Johnson said “it remains to be seen” if there will be an expulsion vote this week.
“I’ve spoken to Congressman Santos at some length over the holiday and talked with him about his options,” Johnson said. “But we’ll have to see. It’s not yet determined.”
Expulsion from Congress is extremely rare. Three of the five expelled members were removed for disloyalty for fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The other two — Reps. Michael Myers, D-Pa., and James Traficant, D-Ohio — were expelled in 1980 and 2002, respectively, after they were convicted of federal crimes.
The Justice Department has charged Santos with multiple federal counts, including identity theft, money laundering, and theft of public funds. He is set to go on trial next September.
Santos and others have argued that expulsion at this time would break precedent — he would be ousted from office before he’s found innocent or guilty.
“I will stand for expulsion,” Santos said on X Spaces. “I want to see them set this precedent. Because this precedent sets a new era of due process … you are guilty until proven innocent.”
“You wanna expel me? I’ll wear it as a badge of honor,” Santos said, adding: “I’m through with the insanity of this place.”